Arnold Arre Breathes New Life into After Eden

The award-winning graphic novelist talks about revisiting one of his earliest works 16 years after its first release.

by Patricia Chong

 

Few things deserve the title of cult favorite—but strangely, it’s perhaps one of the only ways to describe Arnold Arre’s graphic novel After Eden. And it’s easy to see why some would be so enamored with it, especially in a culture where romantic relationships seem to be the be-all and end-all of life. After Eden follows the story of two people who, as people do, fall in love—but the exciting bit is when a few angels and demons place a bet on whether or not the relationship is going to last. The stakes: Control of the earth. Fun.

 

First released in 2002—one of the earliest and well-loved works in Arre’s career—this love story has over the years been met with both a pleasant nostalgia and, until recently, a desperation that reached a fever pitch as copies became harder and harder to come by. But suddenly, it was back in 2016—Arre swooping in with a new cover and a revised story, with scenes tweaked, added, or removed altogether.

 

 

We talked to the graphic novelist about the experience of revisiting After Eden.

 

 

What first inspired After Eden?

After Eden is really my take on the subject of love and friendship. Love is always sweet and warm at the beginning of any relationship but the challenge of staying together is through where and how the couple grows—truthfully I wasn’t very happy with the first version due to many factors. So many revisions had to be made to please a lot of people that had conflicting ideas.

 

What were your impressions of it when you were asked to revisit it? 

I believed that it was a good opportunity to finally make it the way I wanted it to be since my publisher Jamie Bautista (Nautilus Comics) always puts his complete trust in me.

 

How do you think the characters have changed?

In the first version, I added angels and demons to signify how trouble between the couple brews and eventually gets solved through their intervention. In the new version, I made the characters more proactive, so whatever they experienced were brought about by decisions they made on their own. I’m very satisfied with the new edition. I’m a different person now from how I was in 2002, so in a way it’s like the characters grew along with me.

 

 

Throughout the process of revising the story, what were some things that you tried to keep in mind?

Trying to revisit your older work is like reading an old journal or opening a time capsule. You get to see how your thought process was in terms of storytelling, worked from a different, new perspective. So definitely, there were some surprises. I also wanted to respect my younger self, so the challenge was really about how to keep the core idea I had back then while revising the story according to what my more experienced mindset thinks is for the better. It was all about balance, deciding which aspects to keep and which ones to change in service of the story—which is really the most important thing. If an event doesn’t serve the plot or characters then, it shouldn’t be included at all.

 

What about After Eden do you think makes it so enduring?

I think it’s because the subject matter is relevant. Everyone can relate to a love story and the problems that go with it. We’ve all been there. That’s what I always try to do with my books, to make the audience connect and see themselves in my characters and stories.

 

You’ve said before that you’d never be able to write another story like After Eden again—what do you think the biggest difference between the writer and artist you were back then compared to the one you are now?

If I [were] to write After Eden again it would be a completely different creature because of how I am now. I’m a changed person. Maybe I was more naive and overly idealistic back then. I think it’s a good thing though, being able to change and grow and hopefully become a better person.